After RAB: What about Haley’s promise of posting?


RAB president Jeff Haley unveiled a few new initiatives in Atlanta, including getting radio receivers on every mobile handheld device, phone and MP3 player within the next five years; how digital will open the doors for radio to deliver targeted ad messages; and a promise that the radio industry would adopt posting (common in the TV biz)–showing ratings a buy was based on vs. the audience it actually delivered.

He said posting was simply a guarantee that radio will deliver what it promises to our advertisers. “We know our actual delivery is better than the current perception…With confidence, we can show our clients that we believe in our medium’s ability to deliver. The debate is over—we will post."

He also noted the radio biz needs to develop guidelines for posting, but it would eventually lead to audience guarantees for advertisers—and more ad dollars because of it.

Jerry Lee, WBEB-FM (B-101) Philadelphia owner, tells RBR that posting only makes sense if you are a PPM market. “It just won’t work with the Diary. We need to bring together a Blue Ribbon committee of Advertisers, Agencies, Arbitron, the RAB and Radio Stations to work out the details so that it is fair to all parties. We have no choice. It is going to be imposed on us, so we might as well be part of the process to make it a win-win for the Ad Community and the Broadcast Community.”

We asked a few buyers what they thought:

Matt Feinberg, SVP/National Radio, SVP/Director, Interactive Broadcast, Zenith Media Services: “It’s funny—I’ve been hearing the posting thing for 15 years now—whatever. When I first started working in this business we posted local as best we could (radio is not estimated rating like TV so you’re not buying based on what’s a 1.0 now we think the new programming will be a 2.0). What our M.O. was–and I still do this for the networks–we buy off the books that are most applicable to the campaign you’re buying. Usually people use a two- or four-book rolling average. So we post on a schedule delivered against the book that is most relevant at the time the schedule runs. So say you’re buying in January for a campaign in September. When the schedule actually runs, we would use the Fall-Winter book. And we would base it against what actually ran. And that was the best we could do. Stations didn’t even like me doing that, and I would say, ‘tough.’ And we would make adjustments accordingly.

I think Jerry Lee makes a very, very valid point about People Meters. With the advent of PPM, true posting really becomes possible. Now still, radio is not estimated and I don’t think it should be because it’s not based on a programming cycle like television—it’s a continuous process (formats and programs come in and out). With PPM, I think you buy a schedule on the data you’re using and when the schedules become real, you can start posting using PPM data. That becomes better data to use. You’re buying off of one set of data and then you post based on the schedule that ran using more current data—PPM data.

So I’m for posting and always have been. I think it’s something should happen. I think stations have not been for it because it’s more work.”

Natalie Swed Stone, US Director, National Radio Investment, OMD: “It’s a ridiculous discussion—Non-accountability, non-posting is an embarrassment to the industry. That it should be ‘imposed’ on radio is not where radio needs to be. Radio needs to be leading and not be the last medium to be posting, and to be ‘forced’ into accountability. This whole discussion is about 10-15 years too late. There is absolutely no reason why radio stations should not be standing behind anything they sell to an advertiser. And every advertiser can determine how they want it guaranteed or posted. These things can be negotiated.

I understand that the discussion is at 2 levels: national vs. local. And that most of the radio revenue is local—and the local transaction is often different, less sophisticated than the national transaction and therefore the pushback is greatest at that level.

But at the national level, because of the sophistication of the larger national advertisers and the countless media options they have, the discussion is embarrassing—All of the national advertisers that we work with expect posts. They actually have auditors to make sure that we’re delivering posts, and we do deliver posts for our clients—period.

With the digital medium where it is today– telling clients the very next day who interacted with the ad and accepting a payment tied to impressions–and often transactions—for radio to be so far behind in discussion and vision is pathetic at any level. With most local revenue in the hands of a few very large group owners–it is time to advance to the major leagues.”

Rich Russo, JL Media’s SVP/Director of Broadcast Services: “This is very similar to when Clear Channel just dumped ‘Less is More’ on the industry–you would think that the RAB would have talked with agencies etc on how the best way is to do this is, before just thumping their chest and saying “we’re posting”. The fluctuations in radio ratings are in tenths of rating points, whereas TV can be in full and multiple rating points. Radio buys could have hundreds of spots, TV buys always have less. A TV show runs an a hour or maybe a half hour, radio is in 4 and 5 hour blocks. You just can’t blanketly say, “we’re posting”. There are over a dozen ways to post radio. The RAB not only has put its foot in its mouth, but also has backed the radio industry into yet another quandary. They should blow up the RAB and any station group that pays for it should take that money and donate it to charity or something. My head is still spinning from this.”

[editor’s note: a “Russo Manifesto” is on the horizon]

RBR/TVBR observation: As Feinberg and Swed Stone noted, posting has been talked about for years, but has been done internally by the agencies for years as well. Stations should not say posting is being imposed on them, and then try to fight it—it only hurts their cred. We remember a healthy discussion at the RAB Board meeting in 2003 about posting. Posting is against national dollars and we should do it.  Stop hiding under a rock and at least get it rolling as PPM is rolled out.